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Six bands of Utes once resided in a vast area stretching between the Yampa and San Juan Rivers. When white miners entered their lands, the Utes did not give in so easily. Chief Ouray (1833–80), remembered for paving the way to peace between the two parties, actually had little choice but to eventually give up most of the Utes’ territory.

The mining era was launched with the discovery of gold west of Denver in 1859, but by the 1870s silver had taken center stage. Mountain smelter sites, such as Leadville and Aspen, turned into thriving population centers ­almost overnight.

The state relied heavily on its abundant natural resources, and the 20th century was economically topsy-turvy. Tourism and the high-tech industry have come to the rescue and made Colorado the most prosperous of the Rocky Mountain states.